Yep, nutritional yeast is a flavor. No, it’s not the kind of yeast that is used to bake bread or make beer. Nor is it the kind that will wreak havoc on your health. (recipes)
Chances are you are not familiar with nutritional yeast unless you have ventured deeply into alternative diet plans. (:
Nutritional yeast tastes very umami. It’s salty, cheesy, complex, a little bit pungent, and slightly sweet. In fact, it’s used as a ‘cheese’ substitute in many raw and vegan recipes. (as if there could ever really be a cheese substitute?!?!) I became a fan of nutritional yeast when I was learning to be a raw food chef (a practice I have since abandoned for a variety of reasons not the least of which is my commitment to omnivorous qualitarianism). Nutritional yeast is indeed a type of yeast, it’s made from bacteria that is cultivated and harvested from molasses typically, although sometimes cane or sorghum are used. It is then dried, which makes it inactive, and then made into lovely little flakes of yumminess. No really, it’s yummy.
Nutritional yeast is a mainstay in vegetarian, vegan and raw food diets because it is a great source of B vitamins, especially vitamin B12, which is very challenging to get if you are avoiding animal products.
The cool thing about nutritional yeast is not only is it great just to have around to sprinkle over foods, like broccoli or popcorn but it also makes a pretty delicious cheese sauce or gravy to sub if you are trying to avoid those things for any reason.
There was a phase where I sprinkled nutritional yeast on just about everything because it is so deliciously savory. I have since cooled out and use it a few times a week as a nice flavor option to jazz up those dishes that might otherwise be a little boring.
From a culinary perspective, nutritional yeast is easy. There’s really not much you can do to it that will ‘ruin’ it. You can sprinkle it on things like eggs, veggies, pasta, popcorn whatever could benefit from some added cheesy goodness; or you can liquefy it and make it into a cheesy sauce.
From a health perspective, nutritional yeast is packed with nutrients. Interestingly, it is considered a complete protein, just like an animal product and it provides the full range of B vitamins that animal products provide. It also provides a nice percentage of chromium, selenium and zinc. All of which are antioxidants that also contribute to digestive and gastrointestinal health and balance. If you're feeling adventurous here are couple of recipes that may sound crazy but they are indeed delicious....satisfying that umami craving that is part of biological programming.
Crazy Simple Vegan Peanut Butter Cups
- 1 c. melted chocolate (dark or baker’s)
- 4 tbs of peanut butter
- 1 tsp of nutritional yeast
You can either use a silicon candy mold or a muffin tin. If you use a muffin tin you will want small muffin papers...unless of course you opt for the Peanut Butter Cup sheet pan method. Yum.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. While chocolate is melting slightly warm peanut butter, so it’s runny and stir in nutritional yeast. Scoop a spoonful of chocolate into the bottom of mold or tin (or other pan) about ¼ inch deep. Let it harden slightly. Then scoop some peanut butter about ¼ inch. Then scoop the chocolate top. Place them all in the refrigerator to harden and then enjoy. Seriously there is no way to mess this recipe up...chocolate and peanut butter.
- 1 head curly leaf kale (de-stemmed and tore in bits)
- 1 cup raw cashews (soaked for 2 hrs)
- Juice of one large lemon
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 c. carrots grated (the original recipe calls for red bell pepper but I can’t eat them)
- 1/2 tsp of red chili pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
Puree all ingredients and then pour over pieces of kale in a bowl. Massage them all and transfer to a baking sheet or your dehydrator. If it’s a dehydrator set them at 110f (43c) degrees for about 8 hours. If it’s your oven keep it below 200f (93c) and turn them occasionally.